Shenmue 2 is 20 years old today.
First released on Dreamcast on 6th September 2001 in Japan, it came to Europe a few months later on November 23rd – and was an Xbox exclusive in North America when it eventually arrived in October the following year.
You can watch Digital Foundry compare the 2018 remaster of Shenmue I and II on modern platforms versus the Dreamcast original:
Shenmue 2 was one of the final major releases for the Dreamcast – the system was discontinued by Sega earlier that year – and the last entry in the series until the crowdfunded sequel in 2019.
For me, Shenmue 2 was the perfect example of a sequel with real ambition – swapping Ryo Hazuki’s sleepy Japanese hometown for the sprawling streets of Hong Kong as he continues his search for his father’s killer, Lan Di.
Though detective work remained the focus, it was much longer and action-filled adventure. There’s more mini-games, fight scenes and QTEs to vary the pacing, as well as several quality of life touches, such as the much-requested ability to jump forward in time to save you waiting around for events to happen.
For us lucky enough to play Shenmue 2 on Dreamcast in Europe, the option to carry forward your save from the original was an inspired touch – after my first playthrough, I went back to replay the original Shenmue to max out my inventory and progress with as many capsule toys, trained moves and random trinkets as possible so I could keep hold of them in the sequel.
Though I ultimately prefer the more relaxed pace of the first game, Shenmue 2 undoubtedly has some of the best moments in the series – who can forget getting your backpack stolen moments after stepping off the boat? The book carrying mini-game? And storming the Yellow Head Building with Ren?
Perhaps my favourite part is the surprise finale in Guilin, hidden away on Disc 4 and a complete change of pace to the action of Kowloon. Most importantly, it finally introduced Shenhua and teased more of the mystical elements of the series – all of which wouldn’t be revisited until Shenmue 3 some 18 years later.
So happy birthday to you, Shenmue 2, and thank you for keeping us going all those years.